How to Open a Coffee Shop: A Complete Step-by-Step Guide

A Scooter's coffee drive-thru coffee kiosk.

Many people are eyeing the next step in their careers. This may be due to an unexpected job change or a desire to take more ownership of their future. One industry new entrepreneurs are looking at is the retail coffee industry. Coffee has proven time and again to be a recession-resistant industry. Not only is the industry itself well-built to weather an economic downturn, but the concept of a drive-thru coffee shop is uniquely positioned to pivot and adapt in even the most difficult times.

There are many positives to opening a coffee shop, but nobody said it was going to be easy. It’s important you understand everything that goes into starting a coffee shop of your own. It’s a lot more than a few coffee makers and a bag of beans! Our step-by-step guide for how to open a coffee shop will show you everything you need to know to start brewing your own success story today!

1. Establish a Concept for Your Coffee Shop

The first step in opening a coffee shop begins with the idea itself. If you’re considering starting a business, then you’ve probably been thinking about this for a while. Maybe opening a coffee shop has been a dream of yours for years. This is the time to put it all on paper.

What type of coffee shop have you been thinking of? Have you always wanted a cozy café with lots of seating where people can hang out? Maybe you’ve always wanted a hybrid coffee shop and restaurant featuring a wide variety of tasty treats. Your goal might be to serve the best coffee to as many customers as you can as fast as possible. Sit down and make a list of pros and cons for each kind of coffee shop to determine which business model works best with your goals.

2. Write a Coffee Shop Business Plan

So, you’ve figured out what kind of coffee shop you want to start. The next step in how to open a coffee shop is to put a plan together to make it happen. Having a solid business plan in place is essential to starting a successful business. Your business plan is the blueprint for building your company from the ground up. Because your business plan is so vital to your success, it’s important that you’re as thorough as possible.

A strong business plan should outline every aspect of your company and how it works. It should clearly define your mission and your objectives. It also needs to outline all your products and services and how they relate to market opportunities in your industry.

Your business plan should also provide a detailed analysis of your competitors and identify what they’re doing right, and what they’re doing wrong. Last, but certainly not least, should be a detailed financial analysis that illustrates how the numbers work and that this is a profitable concept.

3. Nail Down the Right Location

The next step is one of the most important, and also one of the toughest when it comes to opening a coffee shop. It’s time to discover the right location for your business. Site selection is crucial to the success of your coffee shop. That’s why you need to take your time and consider all the factors for selecting the right location.

Chief among these factors is the amount of traffic that passes by your business. When it comes to coffee, everyone is a potential customer. You’re going to want your brand front-and-center when the caffeine craving hits.

Also, think about your location’s accessibility. If your business relies on a lot of drive-thru traffic, then you’re going to want your building on the right-hand side of the road. Otherwise, customers will have a hard time turning into your store!

4. Design Your Building

The front of a Scooter's Coffee franchise building.

Once you’ve decided where your coffee shop is going to go, it’s time to design your coffee shop itself. Depending on your location, you may be renovating an existing building or constructing a new shop from scratch.

If you’ve dreamt of owning a café for years, then you may already have a good idea of the décor and color scheme you want with your new building. Whatever you choose, make sure your building aligns with your business model. Is your goal to serve as many customers as possible? Then you should avoid dark colors and comfy couches that encourage people to stay awhile.

Beyond the aesthetics of your building, you also need to account for your kitchen area. Will you be preparing food? In that case, you’ll need to make space for microwaves, ovens, and other equipment. Your building layout should cover all aspects of your building, not just the interior design.

5. Find Your Funding

No one said opening a coffee shop was going to be easy. No one said it was going to be cheap either. Regardless of which kind of business you want to start, it’s going to take a good deal of cash to make those dreams a reality.

There are any number of ways for you to find the cash you need. You may be in a position to borrow from friends and family. However, not everyone is in this position. That means applying for a small-business loan. Get your business plan together and start applying with local banks or the Small Business Administration to shore up funding for your coffee shop.

6. Get the Right Business Licenses

You can’t just open the doors and start doing business. There are licenses and permits you will need to apply for and receive. These differ depending on the state and county where your business is registered. Make sure you speak with business resources near you and make sure you have all your paperwork in order. The last thing you want is to delay your opening because you forgot to apply for your building health permit.

7. Identify Suppliers for Your Products and Equipment

A coffee farmer.

One of the most important factors in how to open a coffee shop is the coffee itself! The quality of your product will help determine the success of your business. That starts with having the best beans. You need to find a reliable supplier to consistently provide quality coffee beans, in the quantity you need.

When you franchise your coffee shop, your franchisor often has suppliers already picked out for you. Scooter’s Coffee® gets its beans from its own roastery, Harvest Roasting. Harvest Roasting only roasts from the top 10 percent of specialty coffee beans in the world — for a quality product every time.

What’s more, through its relationship coffee practices, Scooter’s Coffee is able to give back to its growers and suppliers, ensuring a responsible and sustainable supply chain for its franchisees.

And finding supplies for your business goes beyond ingredients. You’re going to need equipment to turn those beans into an amazing cup of coffee. That means sourcing suppliers for coffee makers, espresso machines, and more.

8. Start Marketing and Attracting Customers

So, you found a location, secured your business permits, installed your equipment, and found a supplier for your coffee beans. Now it’s time to get people in the door. To do this, you’re going to need to market your coffee shop. This may mean purchasing local advertising, offering specials, and building a robust social media presence to build your brand.

Building a brand through marketing and advertising is a process that can take time. It takes successful coffee shops years to establish the kind of brand loyalty they need to sustain their business. This is another big reason why so many entrepreneurs look toward franchising when opening a coffee shop.

When you purchase a franchise, you’re buying into a brand that has already been established, with a proven and successful business model. This kind of name recognition can be invaluable, especially for a new business, because customers will already associate your product with a name they know and trust.

Skip the Steps and Start a Coffee Shop Franchise!

When you’re asking how to open a coffee shop, the answer can be overwhelming. There are a lot of steps to follow, and these steps take time and money. Even if you follow each step to the letter, you may be fighting an uphill battle until your coffee shop can establish itself and its reputation. That is why so many entrepreneurs choose to partner with a franchise model instead of going it alone.

Scooter’s Coffee has built its name through more than 20 years of amazing drinks and amazing service. With almost 300 locations open across the United States, customers already associate the brand with quality, and this association extends to franchisees as well. Learn how to open a coffee shop when you start a Scooter’s Coffee franchise in your territory today!